Thursday, April 9, 2009

Trapper Jerry's Last Run down Delirium Dive

I’ll admit I don’t know a lot about the history of "Trapper Jerry", but here’s what I do know. Supposedly he worked around Banff decades and decades ago. At age 94 he’s become somewhat of a local folk hero legend. His legendary status has been achieved by his unbroken string of years descending "Delirium Dive" at Sunshine ski area. If you’re a local, you’ll know about Delirium. It’s a double black diamond super expert area that is technically inbounds, but has a decidedly back country, wild feeling to it. You cannot enter into the gate without a partner, avalanche beacon and shovel. It’s super steep and definately not for the faint of heart or the "sort of kinda expert" skier....

So today it was Trapper Jerry’s big day. My party of four just happened upon the momentous occasion as we barely squeaked into the gate under the 3 o’ clock deadline. Jerry was accompanied by 3 ski patrols, with another in radio contact from above.
I shouted out to friends to hurry and get their butts up the bootpack when I suddenly realised what was transpiring.

We watched a very tentative 94 year old barely pick his way down the easiest line. It hadn’t snowed in awhile and the white stuff was very firm and skied in. On my earlier 3 runs I’d been thinking how if one were to fall, there would be no way of stopping the slide unless you had one of Andrew McClean’s whippet ski pole self arresters..... which still would be iffy as to its effectiveness.

Just as we were watching, to our horror, the worst came true. Old Trapper Jerry lost his balance and started his slide. The 3 patrollers helplessly watched as their companion in care careened speedily out of control down the mountain. Now you’ve got to understand Delirium, it goes on and on in its steepness. Before the steeps end there are several cliffs. Not super big ones, but you could easily flop off into a 50-100 metre drop.

T.J. was doing a major rag doll. Arms, legs head....everything just flopping around. When he finally came to a stop, very close to one of the afore mentioned cliffs well over ½ km from where the slip up started, we were sure he’d broken every bone in his 94 year old body. The patrollers immediately radioed up to the patroller watching with us that only his shoulder seemed injured. It could be bad, but man o man it could have been a lot worse.

As I skied down in the general direction, I tried not to turn above him, because each turn would release snow balls and even rocks that would shoot down the mountain. O’l Jerry had his pockets unzipped, because all the way down the slide path there were several Kleenex’s spaced out, Blistex and other assorted junk. I came to a stop a fair bit away from the crumpled geriatric pile and talked with one of the patrollers. He said they were going to try to bring him out on a sled...a huge task considering the terrain and the distance back to the main ski area proper.

And then this patroller stated the obvious, "I’m pretty sure this is Trapper Jerry’s last run down the Dive."

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